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Native Marriage “Soviet” and “Russian” Style

The Political Economy of Desire and Competing Matrimonial Emotions

Vera Skvirskaja


Based on fieldwork in Nenets tundra encampments and multiethnic villages on the northern Yamal Peninsula, this article discusses people’s experiences and expectations of married life. Two types of marriage—”arranged” and “love marriage”—are used to illustrate how marriage brings to the fore the political economy of desire and local reflections on the good society. The article suggests that while Soviet ideology and post-Soviet neotraditionalist discourses have endorsed customary attitudes toward arranged Nenets marriage, love marriage including marriage with Russians often leads to a situation in which “love” or “alien romance” is tempered by “reason” rather than relying on a “modern” nuclear family ideal. It argues that tundra marriage, including arranged marriage, is commonly underwritten by subjectively understood chances of leading a good family life.